Friday, October 27, 2006

The end of the story

Just so you get "both sides" of the story, the Department of Defense has a dedicated webpage which lists out what it thinks are mistakes in media coverage of defense issues, including the occasions it has written a letter to the editor pointing out mistakes which the media outlet refused to publish. (hat tip: Strategy Page)


Just now, the Washington Post reports that VP Dick Cheney’s remarks on a radio interview have prompted criticism that he condones torture. “Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?” Hennen asked. “Well, it’s a no-brainer for me,” Cheney said, “but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don’t torture. That’s not what we’re involved in.” Andrew Sullivan says, “Lies; lies, and more lies. … It is a civic responsibility. Vote Democrat or abstain.” Mrs. Cheney denied that what VP Dick Cheney said was what Andrew Sullivan didn't hear. According to Reuters:

The wife of Vice President Dick Cheney leaped to his defense on Friday after he was accused of endorsing simulated drowning by saying a "dunk in water" for terrorism suspects might be useful. "This is complete distortion. He didn't say anything of the kind," Lynne Cheney told CNN's "The Situation Room" when asked if Cheney was endorsing "water boarding," an interrogation technique some human rights advocates consider torture.

Commentary

We are well on the way to a world where everyone has his "own truth" and where nothing needs to make sense. Consider Hennen's question: “Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?” Of course he didn't really mean "a dunk in the water". We all know Hennen meant water-boarding, don't we. And Dick Cheney's reply "Well, it’s a no-brainer for me. We don’t torture. That’s not what we’re involved in," really means that he wants to torture someone but can't bring himself to admit it. Whatever Cheney did mean it is obvious that whatever he said makes no difference whatsoever. If he said he was going to torture somebody that would be true. If he said he wasn't going to torture anyone that would be untrue. The point being that in certain areas of public discourse the discussion is closed.

It's interesting to consider what the reaction would have been if Cheney had said, "No I don't agree that saving lives is worth a dunk in the water. Even if I could save a thousand lives I would never dunk anyone in the water or waterboard them either." How many people would then accuse Cheney of abdicating his responsibility to defend the country. How many people, including pacifists, would actually say that even if they could save a thousand lives they wouldn't lay a hand on an al-Qaeda suspect? Even if that's what they think. Because we know that's what they think, just as Andrew Sullivan knows Cheney's mind. Or have we run ourselves into a complete circle?

The closing of public debate is illustrated by the DOD's request to challenge a Newsweek article (which was denied). So now you have to go the DOD website to get that side of the story, if you think it is worth getting, that Newsweek printed, if you think that's worth reading.

Oct. 20, 2006 —In response to a Newsweek article on Afghanistan (“The Rise of Jihadistan,” October 2, 2006), the Department of Defense sent Newsweek a lengthy rebuttal of points of fact and opinion, as well as a request for an “opportunity to submit a stand-alone column that not only rebuts some of the more sensational charges, but offers your readers a clearer view of the very real challenges we face in Afghanistan—as well as the many achievements of the past five years.”

Newsweek dismissed the rebuttal as the “government position,” as well as the request for a stand-alone column. The Pentagon’s response to that letter read in part: “First, a ‘concise’ letter to the editor, of say, 200 words, cannot adequately address an [sic] 2200-word article containing a series of false assertions. Second, the issue is not Newsweek’s position versus the ‘government position.’ The issue is that your readers were given a one-sided, opinion-laced article on Afghanistan based on falsehoods—which is something that journalists and editors are usually concerned about. Your dismissive reply is disappointing, to say the least.”

"Lies; lies, and more lies." But whose?

16 Comments:

Blogger istarious said...

Why is Lynn Cheney selling ads for CNN?

10/27/2006 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger charlotte said...

If Newsweek dismissed the rebuttal as the "government position," it's only because the media enjoys lying on top.

10/27/2006 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

The DOD's "For the Record" is a very positive step. I personally feel that the DOD should be more proactive when handling "news outlets" at cater the to enemy.

The CNN deal where CNN proudly showed terrorists killing Americans is a case in point. I would suggest that the DOD find out (by any means) how exactly CNN got said video of terrorists killing Americans - and backtrack to the actual terrorists and neutralize them.

10/28/2006 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

The ``public debate'' is closed if you mean only that soap opera has fixed plot lines.

Owing to demographics, namely that soap opera news audiences are the only large reliable demographic (they come every day, news or no news, provided only that there's soap opera), fixed plot needs edit the nation's debate. Thus the public debate, by default, is always closed.

In particular, there must be no disturbing complications that bring into question the seriousness of the audience.

Complication offends the audience, and that kills the golden goose that is the only viable business model for news today.

The new's fiction of seriousness is part of the marketing. ``You soap opera viewers are serious people. See, you're watching this.''

(``Why is it that every account of an air disaster is technically impossibly wrong?'' -- ``Because they're not even trying to get it right. The audience is offended by technical detail that they can't understand. If any account is correct, it's fixed so that it isn't, before printing, lest the audience tune away.'')

10/28/2006 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger Soldier's Dad said...

It actualy becomes quite frightening when the quality of journalism has decended to a level that one must either accept the government position as the truth, or live in complete ignorance.

10/28/2006 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Of course we use various forms of torture to elicit information from detainees -- is there really any naif out there who claims otherwise? The idiocy lies in trying to (re)intergrate the detainee into a constitutional or militarily lawful order once they've been taken outside of it. This stems from the error of announcing the detainee's apprehension in the first place, usually for a misguided effort at propoganda. If a high value capture is of no further use, he should be pithed with a push dagger and thrown into a woodchipper. When the Red Cross comes calling the response should be; "Khalid Sheik Mohammed? We too are looking for him and would appreciate any information you have to offer." The Bush administration is confusing tradecraft with law enforcement.

10/28/2006 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Robert Schwartz said...

Your quote about Lynne Cheney distorts the dialog she had with the Wolf-Man:

LC: I’m very proud of this book. It was an effort of two years for Robin Glasser and me. And it was inspiring the whole time. It’s a story of the whole country, told by a family going on a road trip, and my grandchildren love it.

WB: I want to get to that, all that, but I want to pick your brain a little bit on news that’s happening right now, including your husband, the Vice President. He was interviewed earlier this week out in North Dakota, and he had this exchange with a radio talk show host. Listen to this:

Host: Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?

DC: Well, it’s a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the Vice President for Torture. We don’t torture. That’s not what we’re involved in.

WB: It made it sound, and there’s been interpretation to this effect, that he was in effect confirming that the United States used this waterboarding, this technique that has been rejected by the international community, that simulates a prisoner being drowned, if you will. And he was, in effect, supposedly confirming that the United States has been using that.

LC: Wolf, that is a mighty house you’re building on top of that molehill there, a mighty mountain. You know, this is a complete distortion. He didn’t say anything of the kind.

WB: Because of the dunking, you know, using the water and the dunking…

LC: Wolf, I understand your point. It’s kind of the point of a lot of people right now, to try to distort the administration’s position. And if you really want to talk about that, I watched the program on CNN last night, which I thought, it’s your 2006 voter program, which I thought was a terrible distortion of both the President and the Vice President’s position on many issues. It seemed almost straight out of the Democratic talking points, using phrases like domestic surveillance, when it is not domestic surveillance that anyone has talked about or ever done. It’s surveillance of terrorists. It’s people who have al Qaeda connections calling into the United States. So I think we’re in the season of distortion, and this is just one more.

Transcript at Hugh Hewitt -- RTWT

10/28/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

So you're saying that Cheney was saying that briefly dipping a prisoner's head (or his arm or his feet, because body parts were not specified) in the water is going to save thousands of lives? I used to dunk my daughter in the water when she was little. Dunk! in the water, let go, pop up! Dunk! in the water, let go, pop up! She loved it. And you really are suggesting the Vice-President believes a dunk in the water is "robust interrogation" that will "save thousands of lives"?

10/28/2006 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Is it me or wasn't Andrew Sullivan OBE before he could go David Brock?...and where in the World does a guy who once was Editor of The New Republic get the credentials as a conservative commentator?...because he wouldn't march in lockstep with the Kim Jong Il division of the Stalinist Democrat Party of the United States?

10/28/2006 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

...and...reading all this torture BS gets me to believin' that aQ biggies are being treated much better at Gitmo than I was at OCS in '72 (@ beloved Camp Rupture down Quantico way).

10/28/2006 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger krishna_kirti said...

Wretchard,

Your suggestion that "We are well on the way to a world where everyone has his 'own truth' and where nothing needs to make sense" was probably fulfilled some time ago. With the advent of Structuralism and especially PostStructuralism as a dominant literary theories, you have one or two generations of scribes who, wittingly or unwittingly, have imbibed an epistemology that rejects essentialism (the notion that we can actually know things as they are) and rejects intentionalism (the historical assumption that the correct meaning of any text must reflect the author's intended meaning).

Because of the notion of linguistic determinism, something both Structuralism and PostStructuralism significantly share, what Dick Chenny or anyone of his ilk might say are not really what they intended to say but is the expression of an aspect of a pre-existing linguistic structure that that is considered contrary to the "good life" and must be reformed or purged.

Only people "in the know"--the good people (journalists, etc.) who seriously study literature--therefore have the right to determine what others really mean when they say something. That being the case, those who hold wittingly or unwittingly to a PostStructuralist epistemology will naturally find nothing wrong with reinterpreting what someone else might say. For them, meaning is considered both out of the hands of the author and is loaded with meaning the author is unaware of.

10/28/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Sleep soundly, the FBI and TSA will protect us.
---
They'll be rounding up Kathy next, keeping our children all safe from water torturers.

10/28/2006 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

If a high value capture is of no further use, he should be pithed with a push dagger and thrown into a woodchipper.

Jesus said love your enemies, not torture them and then feed them to woodchippers. If you have one eye on the life to come maybe you should follow what he said.

10/29/2006 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger istarious said...

"Athens immediately began a siege of Melos .. Every man of military age was killed and the women and children were sold into slavery."

Wiki: The Peloponnesian War, The Melian Dialog.

10/29/2006 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Teresita:
Jesus said love your enemies, not torture them and then feed them to woodchippers. If you have one eye on the life to come maybe you should follow what he said.

"Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; . . .In flaming fire take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."

2 Thessalonians 1:6, 8-9

10/29/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger drducati said...

In my limited experience with these matters we obtained all the data that we were able to get using none-too-gentle methods. Then we handed them over to folks who got the rest. The ultimate disposition of the subjects was not my concern.

I repeat my long-standing view that terrorists have no rights. They consciously place themselves outside the parameters of civilized behavior and revel in that placement. They cannot thereafter claim the protections of civilized custom when captured. When we take them alive we should use them as we wish to get from them whatever useful information they may have. Once squeezed dry they can be transitioned to their ultimate career as fertilizer. It is certainly regrettable that we might occasionally treat the wrong person this way but warfare has never been a precision process.

The argument that this will lead the terrorists to mistreat our own captured personnel is fatuous. They have always tortured and executed our people as they chose. Their primary tool is the slaughter of innocents, including their own. That alone places them beyond the pale of human consideration.

I killed a terrorist and a mosquito today. That makes two.

10/30/2006 04:15:00 PM  

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